Molly Ivins July 1
AUSTIN, Texas — As we once again approach our national natal day, there is much cause for celebration. Here in the home of the free and the land of the brave, the country where the president has survived the transformation of 10 oral encounters into an impeachment proceeding, we made it through all of last year and we're still here.
And behaving rather well, it seems to me. Speaking on behalf of most of us, the majority of the polity, the general run of folks, Bubba 'n' them, I'd like to express my admiration for almost all of us. We have kept our heads while our putative leaders were losing theirs.
We were way cool through the entire l'Affaire Lewinksy, telling pollsters month after month that even though we didn't approve of the president's conduct, we really thought it was none of our business. Or Mr. Starr's. Or the House Judiciary Committee's. Etc. On the other hand, how else would we ever have known that the chief Justice of the United States gets his fashion sense from Gilbert and Sullivan?
And we showed a great deal of maturity, it seems to me, on a matter of graver moment: the hopelessly complicated affair in Kosovo. In a situation where nothing was perfectly clear, where there were no good options — only a choice of bad ones — and where the one we chose produced horrendous consequences, we resisted every temptation to pretend that it was an easy moral choice or to celebrate the unhappy result as a "victory."
Good on us.
On the other hand, all we can say for our leaders is that they reflect well on our tolerance for human imperfection. From a president who couldn't keep it zipped to a majority whip who thinks that teaching evolution drives teens to violence, we have got some lulus in office, haven't we?
What a country. The president got caught diddling an intern, and it cost Newt Gingirch his job. Latrell Sprewell has made a comeback. And Congress thinks that the Ten Commandments will work as gun control.
As the sun shines upon our fair nation (rather strongly, what with global warming in the works), I would like to make my annual salute to the sheer wonderfulness of us all.
I am always amazed by the number of people who really don't like us. Quite a large percentage of our preachers seem to think that we have become worse than Sodom and Gomorrah — such a sink of sinners and backsliders that we're all hell-bound without a hope. Of course, they have been telling us that for over 200 years now.
Some political right-wingers have thrown up their hands and declared that it is time to "withdraw" so they won't be infected by the "majority culture." That would be nice, but then they said they didn't really mean it.
Here in the majority culture, where crime is down, along with teen pregnancy, abortions, unemployment, welfare rolls and any number of other unhappy factors, we can't even be accused of being dumb and happy.
As what we used to worry about improves, there seems to be a net increase in the number of Jeremiahs around to tell us how terrible things are. They remind me of Vera Carp of "Tuna" fame, who used to say, "You will act like a Christian, or I will slap the snot out of you."
As for dumb, our kids are now doing slightly better on standardized tests. This is not to say we have lost our famous national habit of cheerful ignorance — the latest polls show that 92.6 percent of us believe that Chad is a men's cologne.
The awful truth is that Americans are still a noticeably nice bunch. On the whole, rather a sweet and well-intentioned set of people.
Of course, there are those who really, really don't like bourgeois Americans, and who are sickened by the annual summer sight of lots of people with rather heavy thighs in Bermuda shorts having fun at civic fandangles like the Varmint, Critter and Pest Fest. May age bring them more tolerance, and in the meantime, they can try smearing chocolate on their naked bodies and see if it gets them a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
I say it's a great nation — we've got musical groups with names like Throbbing Gristle, and we've got groups out to censor the libraries for suspected perversion in fairy tales. We've got young people with purple hair and tattoos and safety pins in their belly buttons, and we've got barbershop quartets specializing in "Sweet Adeline." We've got bikers wearing their leathers roaring up and down the highways and the Amish still in buggies. We've still got cowboys, and we've still got Indians, some of whom who are getting very rich from casino gambling.
A revolting number of non-Indians are also getting rich, which means they can take up philanthropy. David Sedaris suggests an appropriate menu of philanthropy for rich people: the Inner City Picnic Fund, the Annual Headache Drive and the Polo Injury Wing at the local hospital.
From sea to shining sea, as we repair to our beaches, mountains and backyards, there to burn many dead cows, I think we can afford a little pride and a little fondness — not just for our country, but for one another, too.
Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
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